Opinion

BULLYING

Today, B.C. is awash in pink, and it’s a sight one Surrey mother has waited a long time to see.

Many people of all stripes – from Premier Gordon Campbell to Cpl. Dale Carr of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team to students at Surrey schools – have pledged to wear the rosy hue as a symbol to stand up to bullying.

The premier has even declared Feb. 27, 2008 Anti-Bullying Day.

Nasima Nastoh is thrilled. Eight years ago, her 14-year-old son Hamed leapt to his death from the Pattullo Bridge after enduring painful bullying at school. His heartbreaking five-page suicide note outlined the torment for his family.

“Every day I was teased and teased,” Hamed wrote, “everyone calling me gay, fag, queer and I would always act like it didn’t bug me and ignore them. But I was crying inside. It hurt me so bad because I wasn’t gay and they kept on saying I was.”

The note also asked that Nasima spread the word of why Ham ed felt he had no choice but to take his own life: relentless teasing that made him feel outcast and alone.

The grieving mom took up the challenge, spending the last eight years touring the province and speaking to schools, parents and politicians about the potentially fatal results of bullying.

It appears her message is finally being heard on a grand scale – and it’s about time.

But it’s going to take more than pink T-shirts to eradicate an abusive culture that in many schools, and even workplaces, has been allowed to fester.

Since Hamed’s high-profile death in 2000, bullying has not only persisted, it has grown more sinister. Technology – such as the Internet, text-messaging and camera-equipped cell phones – have allowed cyber-bullying to flourish. Abuse that was once confined to small groups on the schoolyard can now develop into 24/7 harassment perpetuated by hundreds or even thousands of kids.

Last year, the B.C. government passed legislation requiring schools to develop a code of conduct for students, giving the administration clear guidelines to enforce. However, the real power lies with the individual, which is at the heart of today’s pink clothing campaign.

The majority of the population does not bully; the mean streak is spread among a few bad apples. It is this largely silent majority that must speak up and stop bullying when and where it happens.

As Nasima says: “If we ignore it, we are condoning it.”

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